A true story about a dream turning into reality
By: Linger Ann Aragon
They say that how you feel when you wake up in the morning determines how you deal with the rest of the day. Nobody ever said how long this feeling will last, nor did they say how much of an impact it has on how you will feel tomorrow. Furthermore this feeling must be a reflection of yesterday’s events and in conclusion, an indication of how well you are doing in life.
February 17th was an ordinary morning for everyone at home, until we received the phone call that began this extraordinary journey. It was 7am when my cousin Wayne Santos had phoned us to say that Maria’s cover of “Born this Way” was tweeted by none other than the Fame Monster herself, Lady Gaga. It had only been a matter of 12 hours since my sister Rojuane had posted Maria’s video, and before falling asleep we made jokes about how many hits it would have by the time we woke up. I suggested 5,000 is already too high a number and she said 10,000 may seem improbable but not impossible. Due to her 8 million followers on Twitter and over 30 million Facebook fans, it was no mystery how Lady Gaga has opened the floodgates allowing the entire World to see the talent that has been bestowed upon my ten year old sister, Maria.
We had about five minutes to express our excitement about the good news as the phone rang again. It was a call from Virgin Radio 99.9FM (Toronto) asking if they could interview Maria. At the end, Maria was promised tickets to see Lady Gaga in concert in Toronto. Our morning had gone from ordinary to extraordinary – I was suddenly no longer just Maria’s eldest sister who attended University, but manager coordinating media and performance requests. That same afternoon, Maria had experienced her first limo ride provided by our local radio station HOT103. Ace Burpee declared that he, along with HOT103 would do everything in their power to help Maria achieve her dream in being on the Ellen Show. The support came automatically, when they created a page on Facebook entitled “Get Maria on Ellen”. People from all over the world were commenting and encouraging Maria to keep on going. We were scheduled to fly out to Toronto that evening for a press conference to be held by Virgin Radio the next day. Due to a snowstorm, the Winnipeg International Airport was shut down. It was a disappointment to many, but I knew better and thought that something bigger was on its way.
John Downey, the Promotions Director of Virgin Radio reassured me that we will meet in Toronto for Lady Gaga’s concert. Our conversations lead to the now popular video of Maria’s phone conversation with Lady Gaga. I think that this is the moment that we, as a family realized how real everything was. By Friday evening, we had made contact with the Ellen Show. We flew to Los Angeles on Sunday and taped the show Monday afternoon. We were finally allowed to share the great news with family, friends, and supporters. Ellen had gifts for Maria for being on the show. These included an iPod Touch, iHome, $200 iTunes giftcard and a pair of Dr. Dre’s headphones (customized by her crew – with Jewels and photos of Ellen’s face).
Scheduled to fly back to Winnipeg, plans changed when Good Morning America called. We extended our stay in Los Angeles to spend some time with relatives. We flew to New York on Wednesday evening, and Maria appeared on the show on Thursday, on the big screen in Time Square and was presented with six months of piano lessons from GMA host, George Stephanopoulos. Low on sleep, we decided to spend the rest of our only day in the Big Apple. We visited the Empire State Building, and Times Square. It was an amazing experience. It was also in New York where Maria’s famous “Monkey” was found.
During the trip, Maria had heard a conversation between Wayne and I discussing how broke we would be once it was over. We wanted to buy things for Maria because of all her hard work. When asked what colour monkey she would like to have, Maria refused to accept Wayne’s gift for her. After putting himself on the spot and dancing in front of people just to make Maria laugh, he was able to convince her to accept the gift. Dancing has always been Wayne’s forte – he teaches for Marquis Dance Company and is also the Director and Founder of Sikat Dance Company. This monkey signifies the relationship she was able to build with Wayne, and she takes it with her wherever she goes, because it allows her to feel Wayne’s presence through times that he is not around.
Back in Winnipeg, life continued – Maria went back to school, my parents back to work, and I tried to do the same, except now I had to deal with all the media requests from Toronto.
John Downey is our main contact in Toronto and our relationship with him is special. He has gained the trust of my family, and I honestly believe that our relationship with him is positive because of our initial conversation. John has done a wonderful job with everything – from taking care of us during our stay there, to making sure that things worked with the family’s best interests at heart, and always protecting Maria. Many people had wondered why we trusted him so much, and nobody really understood.
We arrived in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon, and went straight to the studios of TVO Kids. Maria appeared on the show, and wrote her first song about her monkey. Followed dinner at La Bruschetta Restaurant, where she was asked to sign a plate – a tradition asked of celebrities while they dine, and placed on the wall for everyone to see. Among the plates on the wall, were Hilary Duff and Taylor Swift.
Maria had a press conference set up the morning of the Lady Gaga concert including interviews with local, national and international media outlets. After the interviews, Maria was off to Eaton Centre for a shopping spree followed by a sound check at the Air Canada Centre.
Lady Gaga had asked to see Maria before she began. They rehearsed for less than ten minutes, and had gone over the acoustic version from start to finish in one take. I can honestly say that I had the best seat that evening. I say this only because I was able to be there for Maria the entire time. The outcome of the performance is something that I need not speak of, and I believe it’s safe to say that the rest is history. After the concert, Maria had a very late night press conference. Prior to our flight the following morning, we visited a local school in Northern Toronto. Here, Maria was able to share her experience and more importantly, give children the opportunity to see that she is just like them – someone who had a dream, worked hard, and achieved it.
It was only the Saturday afternoon before the video was posted, that she heard of the song. We were gathered for my nephew’s baptism, and Wayne had asked her when her next YouTube video would be released. During this time, he was listening to songs on his iPod, preparing for a class he had to teach, later on that day. He encouraged Maria to listen to “Born this Way.” At first, she was hesitant about singing the song, but after reading the lyrics she became interested.
Wayne had even joked about it and said “Maria, I will get you to the top. I don’t know how, but I will help you get there.” In two weeks, Maria posted her video on YouTube, caught the heart of Lady Gaga, appeared on the Ellen Show and Good Morning America, and above all, shared the stage with Lady Gaga in concert. The popular hit has a total of just shy of 23 million views, and counting. What is next for Maria Aragon? My answer to that is simple. Throughout this entire experience, things have happened the way that they happened in the order that they happened, all because of one reason. Regardless of any plans we make or any events we can look forward to, nothing is set on stone and we can only run on God’s time. Only He knows what is next for Maria, because He is the one in charge.
With everything that has happened, my family and I have learned many lessons along the way. We have learned how important it is to keep our word. Perhaps this is the very reason why we were able to handle situations accordingly. My dad has also taught me not to ignore anybody. Regardless of how difficult it may be to juggle Maria’s schedule around sometimes, I have tried and will continue to try my best to fit everyone in. I have been constantly reminded that everyone else’s time – no matter who they work for, or what they can do for my sister – is just as important as our time. I hope that we can continue to live up to these lessons as we go on with our journey.
Lastly, allow me to say that we are very thankful to have been showered by so many blessings this past month. We extend our gratitude to everyone who we have been in contact with, whether or not it was a message through Facebook, a phone interview, or someone walking in the mall, asking to take a picture with Maria.
We cannot express how grateful we are with words. When Maria chose to do a cover of this song, she did not expect for it to receive this much attention. She chose to sing this song because of its message – Do not be afraid to be yourself, because God made you who you are and He makes no mistakes. Above all, this journey has convinced many people that dreams do come true and that nothing is impossible. As of this moment, the feeling lingers and we can only hope that it lasts. As for Maria, my sincerest wish is for her to be happy, with whatever she chooses to do. I have always looked forward to the time when the World would see what I had always known about my sister – that she is extraordinary.